5 Ways to Help in a Disaster

You're first at the scene of an auto accident. Storms, fires and natural disasters occur. The threat of terrorism looms. You want to help, but you're unsure how much you can – or should – do.

Emergencies come in many forms, but there are ways you can be prepared. Risk management speaker Karen Konarski-Hart shares ways you can help – while protecting your practice and your reputation. 

Make sure the law is on your side. While chiropractic adjustments are not protected by Good Samaritan laws, D.C.s can be sheltered if they:

  • Provide care to an acutely ill or injured victim whose life is in imminent danger
  • Act reasonably in providing first aid or CPR
  • Perform services within the scope of their practice and training
  • Accept no remuneration for services

Maintain your first aid and CPR skills. As with any area of healthcare, emergency care protocols change. In the past few years, the CPR compression-to-breath ratio has been altered and automatic defibulators are commonplace. Training and refresher classes are available in most communities. Contact your local Red Cross for the most up-to-date information.

Use good clinical judgment. In an emergency situation, it is important to be as efficient as possible. The first few hours after an emergency typically will be dedicated to rendering acute victim care. After that, food, shelter and personal needs will be addressed. Other than immediate lifesaving aid, little healthcare is delivered on site.

Follow emergency leaders. Emergency sites are dynamic and are usually under military-like oversight. You might suddenly be called upon to assist with victim care or transportation or be told to evacuate a location without explanation. You will need to be flexible as well as professional. If you join an actual disaster team, you'll need to know your role and practice under the direction of the team's medical director. Team members sign agreements and must follow practice parameters. Deviating from that agreement can leave you liable.

Keep records. Though you may be inundated with victims in need of help, any record keeping is better than no record keeping. You can use a clipboard form to note the victim's name, signature and date. Make sure to ask questions that would "red flag" people with high-risk conditions, such as those with acute injuries or prior serious injuries or those who are predisposed to complications (e.g., diabetes, stroke or high blood pressure). Consider adding two checked areas to indicate the treatment type and level. Your time with these people is limited, and there will be no opportunity for follow-up. So it's important to note the details of any problems in writing as soon as possible.

Be Prepared

Witnessing an emergency and being unable to respond is heartbreaking. You can improve how you respond in an emergency situation by being prepared and developing relationships with other healthcare providers. An added benefit: Your readiness may save a life in a disaster.

  • Research your state's Good Samaritan laws.
  • Update and maintain your first aid education. When an emergency occurs, you won't have time to review your notes. You must respond immediately.
  • Have equipment on hand. Be prepared to assess and treat patients with minimal time and equipment. Be ready with gloves, a mask, eye protection and proper footwear. Assume that no water, food, electricity or sanitation will be provided during an emergency.
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